Morse Examines Thine Only Nurse

Daily Draw January 18th, 2013


I was browsing one of my favourite books yesterday called 100 Dresses: The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in some of the examples they show artwork of the same period with similar costumes. It seems reasonable to include pertinent art from the Metropolitan in conjunction with textiles. I’ve read this book through at least three times but you know what it’s like, something will pop out at you that you didn’t notice the first three times…

Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was a very accomplished painter and had studied extensively in Britain and Europe. The example they include in the book is a painting of his daughter Susan holding a sketchbook. His first wife died shortly after Susan was born and he remarried and had more children but Susan was his eldest daughter. This was painted circa 1836-37, during the time he was inventing the telegraph. He loved to paint but it was never financially successful and he got fed up and switched to science and invention, so this is one of his last paintings.


Susan herself, apart from losing her mother when young, went on to marry a man who had a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico. Her uncle had a plantation there too and her father would come down and visit them all during the winter. It was during such a trip that he set up a two-mile telegraph line between her plantation and the house they used in the town of Arroyo in 1859.

Susan often took extended visits in the States to visit her father too, and developed a dislike for the marriage and plantation life. Three years after her husband died she took a ship to return home in 1885 for good and was lost at sea. Imagine all that.


LADY OF SCEPTRES (Page of Wands)
“…were not I thine only nurse?”


This is Juliet’s aged nurse from a scene in Act I, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet.

The old dear nursed her own daughter Susan along with Juliet. She was Juliet’s wet nurse in a time when upper class ladies most certainly did not suckle their own children.

I found it interesting that I should be thinking about Morse’s painting of his daughter Susan, and then randomly picked a deck where the character on the card has a daughter named Susan. Such is the world of synchronicity. I haven’t used this deck for years but just took a notion to, and laid all the cards out and mixed them up and picked the one card associated with a Susan.

Nurse’s daughter Susan died so she formed a great attachment and affection for Juliet and thought of her as her own daughter. Thus we come to the more friendly aspects of this card, the hearth and home, helping and inspiring others, her fire of playfulness, her creativity and good spirits, her talkative chatter and teasing. And by golly, she does go on and on about Juliet in this scene, spilling the exuberance of the Page as she goes on with pride.

I got the feeling that Samuel Morse was very kind to his Susan. His impetus in setting up a telegraph so communication would be easier for her speaks, literally, of what lengths (pun!) he would go to to help her in her life. I wonder if they shared a creative ability too since he shows her with a sketchbook? He was certainly creative and energetic, and lost his daughter in a tragic way like Nurse lost Juliet.

For today I expect some energy and enthusiasm for projects to come my way then. I shall beware of talking too much though, lest I rabbit on like Old Nurse.



2 thoughts on “Morse Examines Thine Only Nurse

    • Ooooh, ya got me! I haven’t seen that one before. It’s holding its price at $38 CAD. I will try to get an inter-library loan for it.

      Thanks Nat, you pixie, dropping those crumbs for me.

      p.s. I put the ILLO through for “My Favorite Dress”, and while there I took a chance and ordered “100 Unforgettable Dresses” by Hal Rubenstein. Fingers crossed the library can find them.

      You pixie…..

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